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A for Afternoon Delight

Posted on the 02 May 2014 by Haricharanpudipeddi @pudiharicharan

Movie: Afternoon Delight

Director: Jill Soloway

Cast: Josh Radnor, Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Link Ruiz, Jane Lynch

Rating: ***

I’m not married but yet I know for a fact that there’s no rule-book to a successful marriage. Nobody knows for sure what will save or end a marriage? The trick or plan that you think will save a marriage may not always work and the most unexpected one might actually help you win over your partner. Sometimes even the dumbest ideas can save a marriage. Focusing on one such dumb idea, Jill Soloway’s “Afternoon Delight”, is about the story of a couple’s marriage that’s almost kaput, and if there’s anything that could save it, what is it?

Jill could have made one of those cute romantic comedies that we all like to watch so much because in reality, most of our lives are the exact opposite. However, she refrains from the taking the usual path and challenges herself with this sly and rewarding romantic dramedy, sprinkled with occasional humour, that turns out to be a well-intentioned tale of marriage.

In her first leading role, Kathryn Hahn plays Rachel, a suburban housewife who’s having problems with her marriage. She hasn’t had sex with her husband for, god knows, how long because she has lost count of it. Her marriage is on the brink of collapse when she’s offered a dumb idea to visit a strip club with her husband to spice up their marriage.

Rachel convinces her husband Jeff, played by Josh Radnor, to go with her to the strip club, where she’s given a lap dance by a 19-year old McKenna, Juno Temple. Following which, Rachel tends to develop a strange feeling for McKenna, and eventually befriends her. And when McKenna doesn’t have a place to say, Rachel is kind enough to offer her shelter in her house without even consulting Jeff. But McKenna is not a stripper, but a high end sex worker. How does this impact Rachel, her family and even her friends?

At first, it’s tough to understand the relationship between Rachael and McKenna. Did Rachael really care for McKenna when she was homeless, and therefore, she offered her place to say or was it to because she wanted her to spice up her sex life? But it’s clearly not the second reason when we see how uncomfortable Rachael feels when she accompanies McKenna to one of her long-term clients. It’s only towards the end you realize that Rachael really cared for McKenna but couldn’t let her stay with her because her own relationship with her husband was in a mess.

Jill makes a very strong point through the relationship of Rachael and McKenna. She raises the question whether is it acceptable to have a sex worker in your family because you care for her. This is further reiterated in one the scenes when there’s a debate about the suitable word to describe McKenna – a sex worker or a prostitute. Otherwise, we have an enjoyable romantic drama with interesting and strong female characters and even better performances that leaves you emotionally uplifting. With a very subtle narrative, Jill addresses domestic issues with unparalleled sensitivity, criticism and wit no debutant filmmaker would dare to attempt.

Although portraying a troubled character, Hahn seemed to have pulled it off with aplomb. I doubt if anyone else could have done justice to her role as much as she did. She is fittingly backed by Juno Temple in her captivating performance of a sex worker. She was so good that sometimes you feel like she is actually one in real life. It’s a woman-centric film told from the perspective of a woman, and therefore, men happen to be only making guest appearances in some scenes. Nevertheless, we get a strong performance from Radnor in a role we are so not used to see him in.

“Afternoon Delight” plunges deep into raw, intimate and uncomfortable areas that most films in the same genre would avoid.

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